We’ve had The Brits, we’ve had The Grammys, we’ve had The Oscars, now its time for the Marcham Awards!!! Now that Awards season is drawing to a close, I thought that it was only right to offer my own awards for those that I feel truly deserved to win awards based on their achievements in the previous year of music, a sort of anti-Brits! With the Brits failing to nominate Kasabian in any category and the Grammys being as overtly commercially orientated as usual (with the only genuine deserved winner, Beck, being lambasted by the monumental, egotistical dickhead that is Kanye West), this year’s major awards season has been a bit shit (even Boyhood couldn’t win best picture at the Oscars…). So here are the artists fortunate enough to land a Marcham Award…
Best Album Artwork: Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
Best Artwork would have to go to Foo Fighters, with little other competition in the category. I know its not really a recognised area in most award ceremonies but I thought it would be quite an interesting category… Stephan Martiniere’s blending of the eight cities that Foo Fighters recorded in was definitely the most creative and interesting album artwork of 2014, which also compliments the diversity of songs on the album. Other notable efforts would be Royal Blood’s gothic covert art for their self titled album and the psychedelic spiralling colours on The Black Key’s Turn Blue.
Best Music Video: Royal Blood – Figure it Out
Again not the most conventional award category, but something I feel is definitely of note in the musical process, especially with so many notable efforts ranging from Jungle’s amazing dance routines, in the videos for singles including Time, Busy Earnin’ and Platoon, to Peace’s parodies on boy bands (Lost on Me) and the immoral world of banking (Money). Another quality Music video released in 2014 was Queens of the Stone Age’s Smooth Sailing which had a dark, moody atmosphere, fitting the vibe of the song. The darkly humorous video sees Josh Homme go on a booze and drug fuelled business trip resulting in also sorts of debauchery, shot to perfection in an unnamed Asian city in a way that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Nicolas Winding Refn film. However, the overall winner would have to be Royal Blood’s Figure it Out, which tells a stylistic, twisting and bloody tale that follows a confused girl in a shopping centre. A video thats both fun and gets you thinking, well worth a watch and supplements the music very well!
Best Live Band: Kasabian
Last year I took in a lot of different bands in the live arena, and picking my favourite proved a difficult task. Notable mentions have to go to Arctic Moneys (Finsbury Park), Queens of the Stone Age (Reading Festival), The Orwells (Dingwalls) and Drenge (Reading Festival). However, I’d personally have to go for Kasabian after witnessing the Friday night of their 5 day residence at London’s Brixton Academy. Not only was it the perfect venue to view the Glastonbury headliners in all their glory but also a chance to see one of Britain’s greatest bands of the moment play a hit filled set at the peak of their powers. With an amazing light show, showmanship of the highest order from Serge and Tom and an anthem laden set this show was well and truly one of the highlights of the last year.
Next Big Thing Award: Public Access TV
This is an award I made up myself and wanted to give to a band that I felt was floating just under the radar in 2014 and primed for the big time at some point in the near future. New York trio Pubic Access TV have built up an ever-growing following after posting Monaco on their soundcloud account last year, drawing numerous comparisons to fellow New York indie act the Strokes. Having supported Circa waves on their last tour and making their UK debut at Brighton’s Great Escape Festival, it seems to me that it’ll only be a matter of time before Public Access TV’s hook laden indie-pop tracks break the mainstream in a big way in the near future, watch out…
Best Comeback: Death From Above 1979
The unexpected return of Death From Above 1979 last year just nudges ahead of Jamie T for the best comeback of the year in 2014! Armed with new album The Physical World, Grainger and Keeler stormed back onto the music scene, a decade since their debut outing, with a bunch of strong dance punk tunes! The duo proved that they weren’t just one album wonders and returned more politically and socially fuelled than ever with standout tracks including; Government Trash, Virgins and their uncharacteristic ballad White is Red. Its good to see one of the most underrated, influential (you think Royal Blood were the first band to just use a bass and drums?!?) bands return to the music scene after far to many years out of the game!
Best Festival: Glastonbury
The Mecca of all festivals, Glastonbury again this year boasted a stella line up including the likes of Kasabian, Arcade Fire, Metallica, The Black Keys, Jack White, Pixies, Jake Bugg, Paolo Nutini, Kaiser Chiefs, Manic Street Preachers and Dolly Parton!!! Glastonbury is the festival of the true music fans, and the nation’s only festival where it is more likely to win the lottery than get a ticket for. Even without the music, the nightlife at Glastonbury is second to none whether its fire spitting Spider shaped dance stages or custom built nightclubs made to represent the London Underground, Glastonbury pretty much has it all! Hopefully one day I’ll be fortunate enough to take the trip down to Somerset. Whereas Reading and Leeds, Bestival and Latitude all had good years in 2014, at the end of the day there’re just not Glastonbury.
Best Newcomer: Royal Blood Has any band made an impact on the state of music in 2014 more than Royal Blood!? Who else could the award go to (not Sam Smith…)? Although the likes of Jungle, Catfish and the Bottlemen and The Orwells all had good years, their efforts could not match the unprecedented rise of Royal Blood, often being compared to the escalation in popularity of Arctic Monkeys back in 2006. Their no-nonsense brand of bass heavy rock n roll has won them many fans in 2014, including Led Zepplin’s very own Jimmy Page, amongst the hundreds of thousands that bought their debut album. In terms of new talent that emerged in 2014 none could match the huge appeal generated by Royal Blood, with the band set to play two more sold out tours going into the rest of 2015.
Best International Group: Foo Fighters
In a year when the Brits dominated the music scene, there weren’t too many international acts that stood out all that much in 2014. With the exception of The Black Keys, Death From Above 1979 and The Orwells it was only really Foo Fighters that made a big impact on the music scene last year. Armed with a unique concept, (recording each of the songs on their album in eight different cities, drawing inspirations from the different genres that were linked with the city, e.g. Blues in Chicago) the band released Sonic Highways, filled with anthems tailor-made for the huge arenas the band is used to filling around the globe. Whilst the album doesn’t quite live up to the high bar set by their ‘garage’ album Wasting Light, it is still classic Foo Fighters and is given added depth by the Dave Grohl directed documentary series, ‘Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways’ which gives the back story behind each of the music scenes of the 8 cities as well as interviewing some of music’s true legends. A strong year for the Foos, with 2015 looking to be just as successful with their confirmed Glastonbury headline performance!
Best British Group: Kasabian
It would have to be Kasabian! 2014 has been huge for the Leicester boys who have released one of the years greatest albums as well as playing huge landmark concerts at both their hometown and Glastonbury festival. With a monolithic live show to boot, Kasabian have been unstoppable in 2014 and answering the Uk’s need for another big rock n roll band. Frontmen Serge Pizzorno and Tom Meighan are true showmen in a similar vein to the Gallagher brothers and have a distinct knack of writing an anthem tailored made for stadium or festival crowds. 48:13 (named after the running time of the album) is an experimental album seeing them dabble in 90s style big beat (Eez-Eh) as well as the more classic electro tinged indie rock (Bumbleebee and Stevie) with great success. A proper rock band, hopefully leading the way for many more to follow at a time where the music scene is polluted by EDM and fake pop stars!
Best Female Solo Artist: Courtney Barnett
Its testament to the growing influence of this young Aussie slacker that she has managed to bag best female solo artist without even releasing a proper album this year! Courtney Barnett has most definitely been one of the great success stories of 2014, releasing a number of singles with gritty bite and some of the years greatest social observations. Having just released her debut album this month, she looks like a strong potential contender to win the award again next year. Particular stand out tracks include; History Eraser and her cover of the Lemonheads’ track Being Around.
Best Male Solo Artist: Jamie T
Again another category which saw a number of strong entrants including; Nick Mulvey, Jack White, Paolo Nutini, Bruce Springsteen and Damon Albarn. However, for me it would have to be the epic return of Jamie T that earns the title of Best Male Solo Artist. Not only was Carry on the Grudge one of the best albums of 2014 but also one of the best of Jamie T’s career, moving away from his ‘street-poet’ roots into a more diverse artist, ranging from heartfelt acoustic ballads such Love is Only a Heartbeat Away to gritty festival anthems, Zombie. In spite of this the lyrics are still just as good, taking a darker tone that gives us insight into as to why he spent so long out of the game. Long live Jamie T!
Best Song: Jungle – Busy Earnin’
Busy Earnin’ was my song of the summer this year, propelling Jungle into the mainstream and appealing to fans of all genres and ages. A band previously shrouded in secrecy (they used to previously play their shows in darkness and went only by the names J and T), it was only a matter of time that their radio friendly synth tinged, sparkly indie soul bangers made the big time. There is a jubilant quality about this song, whether its the shiny, sparkling synth sounds, uplifting chorus or rather simplistic lyrics, this indie soul anthem just makes you want to dance, even if you’re not quite as good as the dancers in the music video…
Best Album: Royal Blood – Royal Blood
A tough decision by all means, but I’d have to opt for Royal Blood’s self-titled debut album as my favourite of the previous year! The duo’s exhilarating riffing and brutal power (with the band having an amazing sound for just two members) shines through on the album, drawing inspiration from the likes of Queens of the Stone Age with sensational results. Royal Blood are the hard rock act the UK music scene have been needing for a long time, with singles including; Little Monster and Figure It Out appealing to fans of different varying genres. The band’s best attribute however is their amazing chemistry, showcased in their extended Jams on tracks such as; Out of the Black and Come on Over, which sees Kerr and Thatcher effectively riffing off each other and switching up dynamics in perfect synchronisation, a feat also seen in live performances. It seems fair to say with a debut album as strong as this, that Royal Blood look to have a long, bright future ahead of themselves.